Luckily for Elaine Barrett, she isn’t superstitious. It’s just as well. Because a combination of events earlier this month might have made her rather nervous! “It was Friday the 13th, and there was a thunderstorm,” recalled Elaine. And, at that very moment, Elaine had to act quickly and do something that would terrify most people. She had to deliver her ninth grandchild!
But a date that some people dread ended up giving Elaine one of the most incredible moments of her life so far. “Giving birth to your own children is pretty wonderful, especially the first. It’s amazing. But actually, delivering your grandchild certainly ranks as high, if not higher,” Elaine smiled.
She had travelled to Basingstoke to help her daughter, Jennifer, who grew up in Shaftesbury. Jennifer was a week overdue with her third child. “I’d gone up to look after the children while Jennifer had gone to see the midwife the previous day. I had stayed overnight and there were a few movements during the morning. Then, at lunchtime, everything kicked off,” said Elaine.
“They got in the car to go to the hospital but a few minutes later they came back again, because Jennifer’s waters had broken in the car. She knew she wasn’t going to make it to the hospital, so Jennifer came upstairs shouting ‘bathroom’! She had obviously thought about it, so that’s where we went. It was all very straightforward. She was ready to deliver a baby girl.”
Elaine said there was a reference book at hand, which was useful. “She had a big pregnancy and childbirth book open at ‘delivering your own baby’, in anticipation of what she might have to do. I had been reading it. After the initial terror as she came up the stairs, I went into maternal mode. My daughter needed me. And I was confident that I knew what to do. It transpired that I did,” said Elaine. “Abigail basically delivered herself,” Elaine said, modestly.
“There was a home delivery pack downstairs in the hall, which Jennifer had in case it was needed, but I didn’t even have time to look at what was in it. It all happened so quickly. I suppose it was just intuitive,” Elaine said.
Elaine spent fourteen years working in the health service at Salisbury but delivering babies wasn’t part of her job or training. However, she did remember a vital action. “I remembered to check the cord, so the baby didn’t strangle. I would have been worried about cutting the cord. The paramedics didn’t arrive until around ten minutes later but luckily, because I had read the book, I knew that I didn’t have to do that. I just put Abigail on mummy’s chest and waited until the experts arrived,” said Elaine.
Abigail weighed in at 7 pounds and 6 ounces and was very alert, looking to feed almost immediately, said Gran. “She was a little blue, though. My son-in-law was on the phone to the labour line. They advised him to cover her in a towel and she soon became pink. That was the only slight worry.”
Elaine initially felt elated. “The enormity of it was just so huge. It was only when my daughter and son-in-law were putting the other two to bed in the evening that I sat and reflected. I had a few tears of emotion. It was an amazing experience, a privilege to have the opportunity, and I don’t think that anything I could do in the future could possibly top it,” said Elaine.